Selma, emotionally moving!
Fifty years later, Selma is as emotionally moving, as that Bloody Sunday many years ago. I was twelve years of age back then. I had survived a decade of the Jim Crow south on a farm in central Georgia. My family was a few years removed from the farm. Yet city life did not bring about much change in the way the ruling society related to us.
The decade of the 1960s began with riots in Watts, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, a prince of a black liberation fighter named Malcolm X, a tireless advocate for “black lives matter,” Medgar Evers, a Tuskegee Institute student named Sammy Younge and three little girls with bright futures in Birmingham, Alabama.
Then, came news of the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson in Marion, Alabama, as a result of mob violence, led by the local law enforcement department. Jackson’s death coupled with threats to James Orange and Rev. C. T. Vivian sent out a bleak prospect that things would ever get any better.
Suddenly, a news flash reported policemen on horseback with cattle prods had beaten a group of peaceful protestors on a bridge named in honor of a Confederate General. Tears streamed down my twelve year- old cheeks as I cried out to God, “Will things ever get any better. Oh God, will we ever be free!”
Fifty years later, I had to come to honor the blood shed that day, to bear witness to both the shame of Selma and the triumph of Selma; in short, to finally wipe the tears from my twelve year-old eyes.
Near the spot where John Lewis laid bleeding and thought that he “was going to die,” I came upon the Brown sisters: Gail Delaney, Robin Thomas, Felicia Powell and Renee Brown from Ferguson, Missouri. They had made the trek to honor Michael Brown (no relation), and to drum up support for their city’s efforts to remove the police chief and district attorney.
Gail Delaney summed up the problem in Ferguson as being a lack of communication with what is happening in the world outside their community. “There was no information about this event,” she said. “We just found out about it two weeks ago. More people from Ferguson wanted to come but they did not have enough time to plan,” she said.
Near the spot, where Hosea Williams laid bleeding from a cattle prod to the head, I encountered three young ladies studying at Tuskegee University. They came to honor the past as they looked toward their futures.
Not far from the spot, where Amelia Boynton-Robinson was given up for dead, I met the young people of UNITE. They are spearheading a petition at change.org to remove the name of Edmund Pettus from the bridge that leads from Selma to Montgomery. They are black, white, Latino, bright and filled with the promises of tomorrow’s suns.
A little distance from this spot, I met three Japanese Americans carrying signs which read: “Yellow Pearls Support Black Power!” Ryan, the group’s spokesman told me, they came to show their support to black people because of the rich tradition of support the two groups had in the 1970s.
Then near the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., kneeled to pray following Bloody Sunday. The spot where he had received a message from God. A message that said the troopers had laid a trap for the marchers at the bottom of the bridge. The spot where he had decided to turn around, I encountered a fellow journalist who had stopped speaking to me eight months ago.
We had fallen out because he disagreed with my analysis of the results in last year’s Georgia Democratic Primary for U. S. Senate. We met in the middle of the bridge. We shook hands. We hugged. I told him I regretted all offensive things that I had said during our public disagreement on Facebook. He said, “No problem. It’s forgotten. It’s a beautiful day.”
Selma, emotionally moving is an understatement.There in the middle of the bridge from Selma to Montgomery, where much blood was shared so that he and I could work as journalists, we found forgiveness and redemption.
Harold Michael Harvey, JD, is the author of the legal thriller “Paper Puzzle,” and “Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System,” available at Amazon and at haroldmichaelharvey.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org